For those who have a keen eye for art and architecture and an ear for legends and tales, Madhya Pradesh is a must-visit. If the Udayagiri caves, the ancient city of Ujjain and the fort town of Mandu weren’t enough, there are the famed towns of Khajuraho and Orchha. The Khajuraho Group of Monuments features some of the finest temple art ever seen. Striking, elaborate and intricate, these temples are a part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India. On the other hand, the small historic town of Orchha is all about its grand palaces, temples and the renowned royal chhatris (cenotaphs). While the two towns are 172 kilometers apart, they are a delight to every aesthete ever born.
In early 2015, the former Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, met his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, to return something that was of great value to Indian heritage and culture: Parrot Lady.
Parrot Lady represents a dancer with a parrot on her back. The 900 year old sandstone sculpture belongs to the illustrious Khajuraho temples, which reside in Madhya Pradesh, the heart of India. While this particular sculpture is still making its way to the temple town, the ancient temples and carvings in the town are regarded as the finest pieces of art in the world. Gorgeous displays and magnificent architectural structures have made the Khajuraho temples one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India.
The history of temples go back to the Chandela Dynasty; rulers of the dynasty built these temples between 950-1050 AD which highlight meditation, spiritual teachings, kinship, wrestling, royalty and most famously, erotic art. Interestingly enough, the erotic art makes up for only 10% of the overall sculptures present in the location.
They say that over the years and centuries, as the Chandela Empire began to diminish, the Khajuraho Temples were neglected. It was only in the last century that these were rediscovered and later re-established and preserved. As of today, out of the original 85, only 20 remain.
Each of the temples inside the Khajuraho complex of monuments is one of a kind. Based on their geographical location, the temples are categorized into three groups: Eastern, Western and Southern. Beautiful, intricate and expressive, the sculptures of the Khajuraho temples will leave you in awe and wonder.
Possibly one of India’s oldest yogini temples, the Chausath Yogini Temple has just 35 of its 67 peripheral shrines still remaining. The Jain Ghantai Temple was built around 10 century AD and is situated in the Eastern group of temples. The name Ghantai was given to this temple due to this beautifully carved bells and chains. Its pillars are considered to be among the most beautiful pillars of Central India.
Some of the temples in the Khajuraho complex come with their own air of mystery. The Chitragupta Temple is the only one in Khajuraho devoted to Surya and with a massive 11-headed Vishnu in its south façade. And, interestingly enough, the Pratapeshwar Temple has an Islamic dome, a Buddhist pagoda and a Hindu shikhara.
One of the best times to plan a trip to Khajuraho would be during its annual dance festival. The Khajuraho Dance Festival began in 1975 and is held in the stunning environs of the Khajuraho Temples. The performances are artists offering tributes to the Gods with Indian classical dance forms like Bharatnatyam, Kathakali, Odissi, Manipuri, Kathak and Mohiniyattam.